Mortgage Basics

These mortgages, with a fixed percentage rate, and a fixed loan amount are usually carry higher rates than other types of mortgages, but they offer the security and certainty of knowing your monthly payment and interest rate will not change.

These mortgages (also known as ARMs) have a variable interest rate and monthly payments that are recalculated on a regular basis to reflect changes in the market interest rate. These rates are typically lower than the rates in fixed-rate mortgages, but expose you to the risk that market interest rates may rise in the future.

Fixed Rate Mortgages

The basic, tried-and-true, no-surprises mortgage is the Fixed-Rate Mortgage. Your monthly payment is the same, every month of the entire length of the loan.


  • You can rest assured your rates won't go up, and your payments will stay the same.


  • They typically have a higher interest rate. The lenders are assuming the risk that the market rate may go up, and you'll be locked in at a lower rate. As a result, these types of mortgages have a premium for offering the security of the fixed rate.
  • They are harder to obtain. Since your interest rate, and hence your initial payments, are higher than another type of mortgage, you won't be able to borrow as much as you could with another type of loan.

Common Fixed-Rate Mortgages

The 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage

With 30 years to pay off the loan, these loans allow you to borrow more money for the same monthly payment than shorter loans. They may also make it possible to have a lower down payment, because the down payment will affect your monthly payment less.

The 15-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage

With 15 years to pay off the loan, these loans may require a higher monthly payment and down payments than their 30-year counterparts, or are suitable for lower-priced homes. If you can make a higher down payment, or can afford a higher monthly payment, or the value of your home puts your monthly payments into your budget range, a 15-year Fixed-Rate Mortgage may be for you. Since the term of the loan is half as long, you can make significant savings on the total amount of interest paid on the loan.

Adjustable Rate Mortgages

ARMs allow you to fix the interest rate for the length of time that you plan to hold the loan without paying extra for interest rate protection you don't need.


  • They typically have a lower interest rate. Since the lender is assuming less risk on the possibility of interest rates going up, they offer lower interest rates, which translates to a lower monthly payment on a similar term fixed rate mortgage.
  • The initial rate on an ARM is fixed. The shorter the initial fixed period, the lower the initial rate can be.
  • You can borrow more with an ARM than a Fixed Rate Mortgage. If you're just outside the range of your dream home, an ARM can make all the difference.


  • Your interest rates may go up. If the market takes a turn for the worse, or you keep your mortgage longer than you intended (that is, you decide to stay in the house longer than the initial fixed interest rate, instead of selling the house and the mortgage to another buyer), you may be stuck with larger payments. In other words, if you initially plan to stay in the house you're buying for five years, and get a loan with a five year fixed initial interest rate, and you end up staying longer, your interest rates may rise if the market rates go up.

Common ARMs

10/1 ARM

The 10 in 10/1 indicates the length of the fixed initial rate out of 30 years, and the 1 indicates that the interest rate is readjusted annually for the remaining length of the term (in this case, 20 years).

7/1 ARM

The initial interest rate is locked for 7 years, and then annually adjusted for the remaining 23 years.

5/1 ARM

The initial interest rate is locked for 5 years, and then annually adjusted for the remaining 25 years.

3/1 ARM

The initial interest rate is locked for 3 years, and then annually adjusted for the remaining 27 years.

1 Year ARM

A 30-year loan with an interest rate and monthly payments that adjust annually.

6 Month ARM

A 30-year loan with an interest rate and monthly payments that adjust every six months.

The shorter the initial rate is, the lower your initial monthly payment will be, but the higher your highest possible monthly payment will be as well.